Friday, July 27, 2012


(August 1981, U.S.)

There was a time during the 1970s when animated films geared toward adults was mildly popular. These titles like FRITZ THE CAT (1972) and WIZARDS (1977) were the products of film maker Ralph Bakshi. By the early 1980s, when I was just entering my teens, I was becoming familiar with the tail end of this trend with titles like AMERICAN POP and HEAVY METAL (not Ralph Bakshi's). Mind you, I wasn't permitted to actually go and see these R-rated cartoons in a movie theater, but if I was patient and waited about a year I was bound to catch bits and pices of them on cable pay channels.

Even before I actually got to see HEAVY METAL in its entirety, I was immediately captivated by that awesome movie poster (when I was in college, I OWNED that awesome movie poster!). Then there was that incredible movie soundtrack, but I'll get to that later. The film itself has no real single story structure, other than being centered on an evil and all-powerful green ball known only as the "Loc-Nar", and can only be described as an anthology of various science fiction and fantasy stories adapted from the popular "Heavy Metal" magazine and original stories in the same spirit. Like the magazine, it has a great deal of graphic violence, nudity, and sexuality (nothing wrong with the last two!). Listen carefully and you can clearly recognize the voices of John Candy, Eugene Levy and Harold Ramis in more than several characters. However, (and remember, we're talking about thrity-one years ago, before animation was done with computers!) from the opening sequence when the modern space shuttle flies overhead, the hatch doors open and releases an astronaut in a 1960 Corvette descending down towards Earth, we know we're in for an awesome (there's that word again!) treat of animation. It's this astronaut that first introduces us to the Loc-Nar (before being MELTED by it right in front of his young daughter!). From there, the green ball that is "the sum of all evil" takes on a journey through futuristic time and space, where it's influence is seen affecting and destroying the lives of many. There is, admitedly, an interesting twist toward the end when we realize that the daughter of the film's opening astronaut will not only survive the Loc-Nar's power, but will ultimately grow up to be the very sexy warrior maiden Taarna the Taarakian, the one who destroys the Loc-Nar in the end with her own self sacrifice.

HEAVY METAL uses a technique of animation known as rotoscoping in several shots. This process consists of shooting actual human actors, then tracing the shot onto film for animation purposes. The sequence featuring the B-17 bomber was shot using a large replica, which was then animated. Additionally, Taarna was rotoscoped, using a female model for the animated character. The whole system may seem ancient and even barbaric by today's animation standards, but really, does that not make it something to be appreciated and even treasured more? You see, HEAVY METAL may not be modern, but it's loud, it's nasty and it's still as classic and as awesome (again!) as ever!

And now, about that soundtrack...well, what can I say about a double record and CD set of killer rock music consisting of Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Sammy Hagar, Cheap Trick, Journey and Grand Funk Railroad (just to name some) except that, in my opinion, it represents what FM radio rock USED to sound like. Today, with the exception of classic rock stations, I don't know what the fuck FM radio means anymore!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Prosecutor: "You know the defendant Captain Sternn?"
Hanover Fiste: "Yes, I know Capatin Sternn and never did there live a kinder, more generous man."
Sternn: "I promised him 35,000 zuleks to testify on my behalf.
Fiste: "He's an overflowing cup filled with the very cream of human goodness. In all the time I've known him he's never done anything immoral."
Sternn: "See?"
(Hanover begins "changing" as a result of playing with a marble-size Loc-Nar)
Fiste: "Unless maybe the preschooler's prostitute ring!...(changes back)...And he's never done anything illegal...(changes)...Unless you count all the times he's sold dope disguised as a nun!...(changes)...He's always been a good, lawbiding citizen...(changes)...Aw, gimmie a break!"...(changes)...of the Federation, and, and...(changes)...Shut up, shut up!...(changes)...a community-conscious individual...(changes)...Sternn! He's nothin' but a lowdown, double-dealin', back-stabbin', larcenous, perverted worm! Hangin's too good for 'im! Burnin's too good for 'im! He should be torn into little bitsy pieces and buried alive!"
Sternn: "Hanover."

1 comment:

  1. Saw it here:

    On a Summer Night in 1981. Anthology Animation, I loved it.